One helped the other almost three decades ago. In 2021, it was time to pay it back.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus shared an interesting concept with His listeners. He said: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get” (Matt. 7:12, The Message).*
In Greene County, Tennessee, United States, only one-third of a mile separates Riverview Community Seventh-day Adventist Church from Victory Church of God. And now, the two congregations are sharing a single worship space. Here’s the story behind how two churches of different denominations allowed the love of God to perpetuate uncommon grace between their congregations.
Back in 1992, a small group of believers in the Church of God in Greene County began to sense that God was calling them to plant a church. They prayed for a way to move forward and also for a place to meet. One member felt impressed that they should talk to the local Adventist church, so they approached Riverview Community and asked David Brass, the pastor, about renting space for their Sunday services.
Brass quickly convened a church business meeting to discuss the proposal. Without a single dissenting vote or moment of hesitation, his congregation approved the request. A rental contract specified a nominal fee of US$200 per month to help defray utility costs for the use of the sanctuary, classrooms, and fellowship hall. Brass explained, “We wanted them to feel welcome and not feel burdened financially while they were in the process of building their new place.”
This arrangement began in 1992 and continued until 1997. On occasion, Riverview Community members would arrive on Saturday (Sabbath) morning to find fresh gravel spread across their parking lot, an unexpected gift from their renters. From time to time, they’d receive a check with a generous amount added to the regular rental fee. The sanctuary was always spotlessly clean and ready for Sabbath worship.
Eventually, Victory Church of God had a new facility that was ready for occupancy. When the time came for the renters to move into their new sanctuary in August of 1997, they offered this note as part of their celebration:
“In Appreciation …
“Dear South Greene [Riverview’s original name] Seventh-day Adventist congregation,
“We, the Victory Church of God, proudly recognize the congregation, leadership, and Pastor David Brass of the SDA Church for your wonderful show of love. We have been fortunate in using your church building since 1992.
“Jesus says in Matthew 25:35, ‘I was hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.’
“We can interpret this Scripture in another way because we were looking for a place to worship. You, a congregation of wonderful people, took us into your arms of fellowship.
“We praise the Lord for our Adventist brothers and sisters for your thoughtfulness and kindness. We will forever be grateful for the things you have done for our church. God bless you, our special friends. We welcome you always to join our services.
“Thank you so very much.
“In Christian love,
“Victory Church of God.”
The church building was finished but not fully furnished. To help the congregation celebrate, Riverview Community Adventist church refunded all of the rent money it had collected during the previous five years. It was enough so that the Victory church could acquire choir chairs for the loft.
Fast-forward 24 years. A violent lightning strike at Riverview Community Adventist church caused a destructive surge through the electrical system on August 17, 2021, and sparked a fire that quickly spread. More than 20 rescue and fire squads came to battle the blaze, but the church was already engulfed in flames when they arrived. The building could not be saved without endangering human lives. Fortunately, no one was in the building at the time of the fire, and none of the firefighters suffered injury.
As emergency crews doused the hot spots with water, Jim Fillers, pastor of the Victory Church of God, came out with several of his members to offer support and supply food for the first responders. John Duroe, a retired former pastor of the Riverview Community church, was among the group of members viewing the catastrophe. Pastor Fillers found Duroe and said, “You don’t have to look for any other place to worship this coming Saturday, John. It’s payback time! Come, meet at Victory Church of God!”
And so they did. The members of Riverview Community arrived on Sabbath, August 21, 2021, to study and worship, filling up the sanctuary and classrooms with praise. Gary Rustad, Georgia-Cumberland Conference president, provided words of comfort and encouragement to the group. During the testimony time, Duroe said, “Praise God. He gave us a better church this Sabbath!”
That’s what God can do! He can restore and rebuild anything the enemy tries to destroy.
Kindness is the catalyst that ignites and unites us as Christian brothers and sisters.
So far, Victory Church of God has donated US$2,000 toward the rebuilding of Riverview Community church. Other churches in Greene County have contributed nearly US$20,000 as well.
The original version of this story was posted by Southern Tidings.